Sermon Notes and Audio
Scripture Focus- John 5:1-16
Billions of people around the world are seeking hope and salvation through manmade religions that are a dead-end. Manmade religion is a system of thinking, determined by people, that teaches through requirements, rituals, and rules a person can gain an ultimate reality of eternal life.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift- not from works, so that no one can boast.
Even within the broad category of Christianity there are many people around the world that are taught and believe in a works based salvation. That human effort can somehow make a person right with God.
The Bible teaches that manmade religion is a dead-end, Jesus is life giving.
Jesus encountered the Jewish religious leaders of His day. They claimed to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They believed if they adhered to the Law of Moses, they could be right with God. Through the centuries, they added a plethora of their own traditions to the law. Jesus confronted them in their religion, and eventually He was put to death.
The first three miracles in John show how a person is saved:
1st (water to wine) shows that salvation is through the Word of God.
2nd (healing of the Nobleman’s son) shows that salvation is by faith.
3rd (healing of the paralytic man) shows that salvation is by grace.
In John 4, although Jesus initially encountered unbelief, and there were people in the crowds who were not genuine in their belief, many legitimately believed in Jesus and followed Him. In the passage of Scripture before us, there is a growing unbelief and opposition to Him. Chapters 5-7 record a shift from reservation and hesitation about Jesus to opposition. This unbelief and opposition, began with the Jewish leaders. John often refers to them simply as “the Jews”. They didn’t like is that Jesus confronted their manmade religion, especially the Sabbath laws.
Jesus fulfilled the Law, He never violated one point of it.
Matthew 5:17 Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the last until all things are accomplished.
Jesus obliterated the human traditions of manmade religion. He deliberately continued to minister and show His power on the Sabbath for the Jewish leaders to see.
People are broken and in need of the power of Jesus to heal.
A Jewish Festival took place- it could have been the Passover, but there is no way of telling for sure. John repeatedly ties his narrative to various Jewish feasts (2:13 Passover); (6:4 Passover); (7:2 Tabernacles); (10:22 Dedication); (11:55 Passover). This is the only one that is not specifically identified. John is most likely just giving a reason for why Jesus was in Jerusalem at that particular time. The Sheep Gate is referred to- probably because it was an area where many sheep were led in for the purpose of being sacrificed in the temple court that was close-by.
Near that was a pool known as Bethesda (house of mercy). This area was actually excavated in 1888 in connection with the repair of a church there. I’ve been there. In the time of Jesus it had five porticos, or covered collonades, where the sick could rest under them, protected from the weather.
It must have been a really sad sight around the Pool of Bethesda. There were a large number of people who were sick- blind, lame and paralyzed. Maybe they lay in the collonades to beg for money from people who were on their way into the temple to worship. There weren’t just a few people, there were likely hundreds. They would have had to stay in the shade to hide from the unbearable heat of the sun. Maybe those who couldn’t see stayed close to the edge of the pool hoping someone would help them. They were despairing, waiting, and hoping. The blind couldn’t see the water move. The deaf couldn’t hear the rush of the pool. The sick were weak and couldn’t necessarily get in there.
At the pool, occasionally the water would be stirred up. Apparently the pool was fed by a spring that would cause water to flow into the pool and cause bubbling. The people thought it was an angel causing the water to stir. They thought the first one into the water when it stirred, would find healing for their problem. When the water stirred there was probably a scene of chaos, as the blind, maimed, and crippled people tried to be the first into the water. Judaism certainly did not approve of the superstition associated with the alleged healing powers of the pool of Bethesda. Healing shrines were associated with pagan cults. The people were wretched- helpess, and waiting-for some help.
The people there serve as a physical picture, or the spiritual condition of the human race, broken by sin. Now let’s be clear, not all sickness or frailty is a result of a person’s sin, but all sickness and death is a result of the fact that we live in a broken, fallen, world, crushed under the weight of sin.
There at the Pool of Bethesda, was a man who had been sick for 38 years. This doesn’t mean he had been at the pool all that time. He caught Jesus’ attention. The duration of the disease had taken away all hope of being cured.
C.H. Spurgeon- A multitude of needy people were there, yet none of them looked to Jesus. A blindness had come over these people at the pool, there they were, there was Christ, who could heal them, but not a single one of them sought him. Their eyes were fixed on the water, expecting it to be troubled, they were so taken up with their own chosen way that the true way was neglected.
The scene at that pool, is a terrible picture of broken people, putting their faith and trust in some religious form of superstition that could not do anything for them. It would have been completely hopeless, but Jesus was there!
People are lost and in need of the power of Jesus to save.
All of the healing miracles of Jesus are illustrations of His power to save. They display His power, not just to heal people physically who will eventually die, but to heal people spiritually who will live with Him forever.
Jesus knows every situation-
This reflects the compassion of Jesus. He chose to go to the pool. He didn’t have to. It didn’t surprise Him. He had gone to the pool the same way he went to Samaria to find the woman at the well. Jesus always goes toward need, toward the broken. He moves toward us when we are hurting.
John 5:6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew he had already been there a long time, He said to him, Do you want to get well?
Ch 1:47-48 Jesus already knew about Nathanael before He met him.
Ch 2:24-25 Jesus knew the hearts of the people in Jerusalem who did not truly believe in Him.
Ch 4:17-18 Jesus knew the sinful background of the Samaritan woman at the well.
Psalm 139:2-4 You know when I sit down and when I stand up, You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest, You are aware of all my ways.
This was the Light shining into darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a great multitude of sick people lying around this pool, and the Great Physician as in their presence. Jesus knew this man had been in this broken condition for 38 years. Jesus knows everything about us. Nothing is hidden from Him and He cares deeply about you.
Now why would Jesus ask Him if he wanted to get well? He did not ask this as if there were any uncertainty in the matter but to stir up in the man a desire for the offer that was being made to him and maybe to attract the attention of everyone else who was watching. Jesus didn’t ask questions to get information. He asked questions to make His point. I think he wanted the man to recognize his hopeless condition and look to Jesus for help. Jesus can speak the word, and save someone instantly who has been broken for decades.
The man replied v7 Sir, I don’t have a man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I’m coming up, someone goes down ahead of me.
The man did what a lot of people do. He limited God, to what he thought was possible and what his mind could conceive of happening. He could not see past the water as his healing agent. He could not see past the need for human assistance to get in the water.
Jesus tells him v8 Get up, pick up your mat and walk! V9 Instantly the man got wek9ll, picked up his mat, and started to walk.
A mat was the bedding of the poor. Normally made of straw, it was light and could be rolled up and carried about by any healthy person. Three commands. With the commands, came the power of Jesus. The divine healing of God shakes loose his suffering and releases him in health.
This is a picture of what Jesus can do for us spiritually.
You cannot do this for yourself. No matter how long a person has been broken and entrapped by sin, if you respond to the commandment of Jesus, it is the gift of God in your life.
Why did Jesus not heal everyone at the Pool of Bethesda? He could have certainly done it. Yet He only healed this undeserving man as far as we know. Why does God not save everyone? It is within His power to do so.
John 5:21 And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to anyone He wants to.
Jesus chose this man, it was all of grace. Only by the grace of God is anyone saved.
People are enslaved and in need of the power of Jesus to free.
John tells us the healing took place on the Sabbath. What ensues is a controversy between Jesus and the Jewish leaders focusing on proper Sabbath observance. The Sabbath was representative of their legalism. Jesus wanted to make a point. He knew it would create a confrontation. He knew Exodus 20 said they were not supposed to work on the Sabbath. They had perverted the meaning of the Sabbath to the point that it had lost its meaning. He wanted to challenge them at their point of understanding to cause them to receive Him or reject Him.
In contrast to the two commands of Christ, the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws…By the time Christ came it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. As such, it contained at least ten tragic flaws. (1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations. (2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men. (3) It reduces a person’s ability to personally discern. (4) It creates a judgmental spirit. (5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law. (6) It produces inconsistencies. (7) It created a false standard of righteousness. (8) It became a burden to the Jews. (9) It was strictly external. (10) It was rejected by Christ. Outlined from Fan The Flame, J. Stowell, Moody, 1986, p. 52.
Things haven’t changed much. Rav Yehoshua Y. Neurwirth wrote a modern book entitled A Guide to the Practical Observance of Shabbath. It goes into great detail concerning contemporary Judaism. In the preface, the author writes, “The Mishna likens the laws of Shabbath to ‘mountains hanging by a hair’, in that a multitude of precepts and rules, entailing the most severe penalties for their breach, depend on the slightest of indications given by a biblical verse.”
Manmade religion focuses on outward conformity, not inward transformation. In doing so, it enslaves rather than frees. Biblical faith focuses on inward transformation by the power of God, and in doing so, it frees.
The Pharisees saw the man carrying his mat on the Sabbath they didn’t like it. There was no rejoicing from the religious leaders or praise to God for what Jesus had done. They wanted to go after Jesus. The Jewish leaders’ primary objection was not against the healing itself but that the law allegedly forbade the man to carry his mat on the Sabbath. The man was not breaking any actual biblical regulations. He was violating a code that had been developed that prohibited the carrying of an object from one place to another. Apparently they thought it was okay to carry a bed with a person lying on it, but not one that was empty.
The Rabbis of Jesus’ day solemnly argued that a man was sinning if he carried a needle in his robe on the Sabbath. They even argued as to whether he could wear his artificial teeth or his wooden leg. (Barclay)
The religious leaders had most certainly seen this man lying helplessly by the Pool of Bethesda. Now they see him walking around the temple. You would think they would be amazed at what has happened! All they could do was rebuke the man for carrying his mat on the Sabbath and go after the One who healed him.
The religious world opposes the actual work of God. Unless we subscribe to their rules, and traditions, it will not be acceptable. Jesus was not ignorant of the current teachings about the Sabbath, and He knew the consequences. Jesus came to set people free from the shackles of religion.
Galatians 5:1Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.
There’s a passage in Luke 6 that further illustrates the attitude of the Pharisees. Jesus entered the synagogue to teach. There was a man whose right hand was paralyzed. The scribes and the Pharisees watched to see if Jesus would heal on the Sabbath. The Scripture says He knew their thought so he said to the man with the paralyzed hand, rise up and stand forth. So he arose and stood forth. Then Jesus began to speak and said, I will ask you one thing- is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good or to do evil? To save life or destroy it? He didn’t get an answer. Then he said to the man- stretch out your hand. The man did and his hand was restored to be the same as the other. Jesus was making the point that He was doing what was good. If I know what is good and don’t do it, it’s evil. They were angry and discussed with one another what they might do with Jesus.
The religious leaders were so enslaved to their manmade system, they could not see the power of God. They also wanted to others to adhere to their way of thinking. They threatened this man for carrying his mat on the Sabbath. They asked him who told him to pick up his mat and walk. The man did not know who cured him because Jesus had slipped into the crowd. He was afraid of them evidently because later when he found out who Jesus was, he told the Jews, knowing it could cause him difficulty.
Jesus went to the man after He was healed, found him in the Temple Complex, and warned him v14- Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you.
As I mentioned, not all infirmity is linked to sin, but sometimes it is. This man was crippled for 38 years. Jesus lets him know that He has healed him, but he needs to stop sinning. Going to the temple or keeping the Jewish traditions would not fix his heart problem. God is never fooled by people who are outwardly religious but whose hearts are full of sin.
“Something worse”- is the eternal judgment of God, which is much worse than anything we could experience on the earth! All manmade religions work the same way- they keep people in fear and submission to the system.
Jesus knew his broken condition, and still cared for him It was mercy. It would be costly to Jesus- v16
Jesus offered him a new beginning, and He offers us a new beginning. Religion will fail you. Being a good person will fail you. Trusting in people will fail you. Church affiliation will fail you.
Jesus is life giving.